A few articles back, R.S. saw my column on a print by Roy Lichtenstein Why Not Put All the Men on the Moon? and sent me HIS Lichtenstein print titled Crak. Unlike the previous work I appraised, R.S. thinks his is authentic. Let’s see.
Since R.S.’s is signed and numbered (ed. 207/300) and dated, we have a research starting point. The bottom number of the fraction indicates that Lichtenstein limited this lithograph to 300 examples. That means somewhere there are 299 others known to the art world. How do we find if the art world knows of those other 299?
Some scholar somewhere has been compiling a register of the artist’s print titles: that registry is called a catalogue raisonné, and many great artists ‘belong’ to such scholars of such catalogues. This is a scholar’s life work: to ferret out all the known works of art by their artist. Provenance, edition sizes, type of paper and inks will be researched of all the works in collections. The scholar in this case should find no more than 300 copies, except for artist’s proofs or proofs given to the printmakers.
Artist’s proofs are generally not numbered but bear the marking A.P., or in French art E.A. Likewise, works given to the printmakers are not numbered but bear the initials H.C., which stand for Hors de Commerce (not for sale).
This catalogue raisonné will track details of the edition of a print from start to finish, including all the impressions published at the same time or part of a publishing event. A first edition print is one issued with the first group (in this case 300) of the impressions. The catalogue will also include ‘states’ of a print. A state of one print includes all of the impressions pulled without any change to the matrix; different states of one print may include intentional or accidental changes. Matrix is the term for the object (wood, plate, stone) on which the image is rendered. When that changes, the state changes. There can be several states of a print in one edition. Scholars even research the type of paper and ink and accurate artist-sanctioned sizes of the print.
A catalogue raisonné is a documentary list of all the works of one artist at the time of its writing. A good one includes all kinds of technical and provenance information and is therefore often never finished: as more work surfaces or changes hands, the catalogue will often need to be updated. Some scholar face a losing battle with their catalogues, such as those on Dali or Warhol, because of the proliferation of illegitimate works.
Thus I turned to Lichtenstein’s scholar, Mary Lee Corlett, author of The Prints of Roy Lichtenstein: A Catalogue Raisonne (1948-1997 which is in its second edition. She ends on the date of the artist’s death in 1997. The book weighs almost 5 pounds and is perhaps the best guide to authenticity of Lichtenstein’s works.
Corlett is an insider: a research associate at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. To make a catalogue, she would have had to be on good terms with the collectors and the estate and heirs of the artist, and evidently she was. She needed to uncover everything anyone knew about Lichtenstein’s work.
I looked to see if R.S.’s print was listed as a limited edition print in her book, as opposed to a poster, an unlimited print, or a mere tear-out from a book. Dealers and collectors cite research into this catalogue as evidence of authenticity.
Now to the good new, R.S. Measure the site size of your image (the edges of the print NOT the paper). Does it measure 18 ½” x 27”? If so check to make sure the signature of the artist is a real signature (not a copy). You can sometimes see the ink sitting on the top of the paper, which is a good thing, or the ink itself discoloring in a different way from the ink used in the lithograph. It is also dated correctly, 1964, the date of creation by the signature, and it is from an edition of 300. All these elements match what an authentic print should contain as we learn from the catalogue raisonné.
Next, I looked at auction records for limited edition lithographs of this title. One of these sold for a good price at auction in 2016 for $22,000. You will need to buy that catalogue raisonné now.
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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